Phrenic Nerve

When Medical Care Causes Breathing Difficulties – and the Need for the Baltimore Phrenic Nerve Lawyer

The phrenic nerve plays a vital role in keeping you alive. It’s the main nerve responsible for controlling the diaphragm, the primary muscle for breathing. Damage to the phrenic nerve can significantly impair your breathing ability, leading to serious health complications. In some cases, this damage can be caused by medical malpractice during surgery or other procedures. If you have been injured, you may need the Baltimore phrenic nerve lawyer at the Kopec Law Firm.

Anatomy and Function of the Phrenic Nerve

The phrenic nerve originates in the neck, travels down through the chest cavity, and branches out to innervate the diaphragm. When the phrenic nerve sends signals, the diaphragm contracts, allowing your lungs to expand and take in air (inhalation). Conversely, relaxation of the diaphragm helps expel air from the lungs (exhalation).

Procedures and Surgeries That Can Injure the Phrenic Nerve

Several medical procedures carry a risk of phrenic nerve injury. Here are some examples of surgical error:

  • Cardiac surgery: Open-heart surgery, particularly coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG), can put the phrenic nerve at risk due to its close proximity to the surgical field. Stretching, compression, or direct injury to the nerve during surgery can occur.
  • Lung surgery: Procedures like lung resection (removal of lung tissue) or lung transplantation can also damage the phrenic nerve.
  • Esophageal surgery: Surgeries on the esophagus, especially for cancer, can affect the phrenic nerve if it becomes stretched, compressed, or accidentally cut.
  • Neck surgery: Procedures involving the carotid arteries or the removal of tumors in the neck can put the phrenic nerve at risk, especially if the surgeon isn’t meticulous in nerve identification.
  • Shoulder surgery: Certain shoulder surgeries, particularly those involving nerve blocks or implants near the clavicle, can potentially injure the phrenic nerve.
Baltimore Phrenic Nerve Lawyer
Baltimore Phrenic Nerve Lawyer

Types of Doctors Who Perform These Procedures

The type of doctor performing the surgery depends on the specific procedure:

  • Cardiothoracic surgeons: Specialize in surgery of the heart, lungs, and major blood vessels in the chest.
  • General surgeons: Perform a wide range of surgeries, including some lung and esophageal procedures.
  • Vascular surgeons: Specialize in the vascular system, including surgery on the carotid arteries in the neck.
  • Orthopedic surgeons: Perform surgery on the bones and joints, including some shoulder surgeries.

How Can the Phrenic Nerve Be Injured During Surgery?

Phrenic nerve injury during surgery can occur in several ways:

  • Direct cut: Accidental severing of the nerve with surgical instruments.
  • Compression: Excessive pressure from retractors or other surgical tools can compress the nerve, leading to dysfunction.
  • Stretch: Improper positioning of the patient or excessive pulling on the nerve during surgery can cause stretching and damage.
  • Electrocautery: Accidental use of electrical cautery near the nerve can cause thermal injury.
  • Local anesthetic injection: Misplacement of an anesthetic injection in the neck can directly affect the phrenic nerve.

Symptoms of Phrenic Nerve Injury

The symptoms of phrenic nerve injury can vary depending on the severity of the damage and whether one or both nerves are affected. Here are some common signs:

  • Shortness of breath: This is the most frequent symptom, especially during exertion or when lying down.
  • Fatigue: Difficulty breathing can lead to increased tiredness.
  • Hiccups: Persistent hiccups can be a sign of phrenic nerve irritation.
  • Sleep problems: Difficulty getting enough oxygen at night can disrupt sleep.
  • Elevated hemidiaphragm: X-ray imaging may reveal a paralyzed diaphragm appearing higher than usual on one side (unilateral paralysis) or both sides (bilateral paralysis).
  • Recurrent respiratory infections: Weakened breathing can make you more susceptible to pneumonia and other infections.

Treatment for Phrenic Nerve Injury

Treatment for phrenic nerve injury depends on the extent of the damage and your symptoms. Options may include:

  • Observation: In mild cases, watchful waiting may be appropriate to see if the nerve recovers on its own.
  • Physical therapy: Breathing exercises and techniques can help improve lung function and manage symptoms.
  • Diaphragmatic pacing: A pacemaker-like device can electrically stimulate the diaphragm to assist breathing.
  • Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to repair a severed nerve or address nerve compression.

Prognosis and the Need for the Baltimore Phrenic Nerve Lawyer

The prognosis for phrenic nerve injury varies. In some cases, the nerve can heal on its own, especially with physical therapy. However, severe nerve damage may lead to permanent breathing difficulties and require ongoing treatment with a diaphragm pacer or mechanical ventilation.

Medical Malpractice Claims for Phrenic Nerve Injury

If you suffer from phrenic nerve injury after a surgery or procedure, and you suspect medical negligence may be the cause, you may be eligible to file a medical malpractice claim. To prove a medical malpractice case involving phrenic nerve injury, you’ll need to demonstrate the following:

  • Doctor-patient relationship: You had a doctor-patient relationship with the healthcare provider who performed the surgery or procedure.
  • Standard of care: The doctor deviated from the accepted standard of care for the specific procedure. This means they failed to act with the skill and care expected of a reasonably competent doctor in a similar situation.
  • Causation: The doctor’s breach of the standard of care directly caused your phrenic nerve injury.
  • Damages: You suffered damages as a result of the injury, such as medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and disability.

Types of Damages in a Phrenic Nerve Injury Lawsuit

A successful medical malpractice claim for phrenic nerve injury can help you recover compensation for various damages, including:

  • Medical expenses: Past, present, and future medical costs associated with treating the nerve injury, including physical therapy, medications, surgeries, and potential ongoing care with a diaphragm pacer or ventilator.
  • Lost wages: If your breathing difficulties prevent you from working or limit your ability to earn a living, you can recover lost wages and future earning capacity.
  • Pain and suffering: Compensation for physical pain, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life due to the injury.
  • Disability: If the nerve damage is permanent and affects your daily activities or ability to work, you may be entitled to compensation for disability.

Consulting with the Baltimore Phrenic Nerve Lawyer

If you believe your phrenic nerve injury resulted from medical negligence, it’s crucial to consult with a qualified medical malpractice attorney. We can review your case, investigate the circumstances surrounding your injury, and determine if you have a valid claim. We can also help you understand your legal options, gather medical records and expert opinions, and navigate the complexities of the legal system.

Next Step: Call the Baltimore Phrenic Nerve Lawyer

If you’re considering a medical malpractice claim for phrenic nerve injury, don’t hesitate to contact us for a free consultation. We can help you understand your rights and options and determine the best course of action for your situation.

Visit the Kopec Law Firm free consultation page or video. Then contact us at 800-604-0704 to speak directly with Attorney Mark Kopec. He is a top-rated Baltimore medical malpractice lawyer. The Kopec Law Firm is in Baltimore and pursues cases throughout Maryland and Washington, D.C.

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